Thursday, June 28, 2007

Meeting friends and heading home

Not often does a person get to meet the folks he corresponds with online, but I recently had the pleasure of meeting Carter Jefferson and Ruth Douillette near the end of my vacation in Massachusetts. They are—surprise! just as nice in person as they are in their emails in the IWW.

Writing habits don’t change easily. My new novel is not writing itself, alas, nor have I put more than a couple thousand new words into it during this family vacation. Tomorrow we leave Cape Cod for Vermont, the home of Nancy’s 101-year-old grandmother. Barbara is tiny, blind and frail now, but her mind is as strong as ever. We have known each other for well over 40 years, and I can attest that she is a genuine lady. When she heard about my novel, she had a friend order a copy from her local bookstore; she wouldn’t hear of accepting a copy as a gift if she could boost my sales instead.

After a day visiting her, we’ll begin our trip home in earnest. Our plan is to skirt the Great Lakes, pass through Kansas and Colorado, and drop into New Mexico from the north. We expect to arrive home on July 5, or July 6 if we get lazy. It’s been a fine vacation, but Nancy and I are both ready to have it done now. I suspect that our travel companions, George and Gracie, will also be happy for familiar turf. When Nancy started cleaning the big carrier the cats travel in, G & G hot-pawed it out of sight. Gracie quickly forgot her worries and wandered back to greet us, but not George. We began to worry that he might have slipped out, which would have been serious, but we eventually we found him hiding under the bed.

Here is an old photo of the cats who rule our lives (Gracie is on the left):

Once we’re home, I have to figure out how to improve book sales. I’ve had a couple of radio interviews, have been featured on the cover of a (small) literary magazine, received glowing book reviews, and so on. My online sales are insignificant. At book signings, my sales to date have ranged from two to six copies. I do have a couple of upcoming events where I expect to sell a good deal more, but hand-selling won’t move copies quickly.

Wow. What a whiner. The fact is, having a book in print—a good book, one that makes people laugh, is a lot of fun.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A month on old Cape Cod

We’re on Cape Cod in Massachusetts for the month of June, 2500 miles and a week’s drive from our New Mexico home. Our rented cottage sits on quiet Buzzard’s Bay, where we could hide undiscovered for a very long time. There are no superhighways, no police sirens, no pimped-up hot rods with thundering stereos. But there is peace, and there is time to write. On many days, a stiff northerly breeze creates whitecaps on the bay, which I can see from where I sit. Now and then, a small recreational boat putts past.

We are in an old carriage house next door to the lovely Federal-style home that our landlord and her husband live in. Our place is comfortable, although the dimensions are such that I’ve bumped into shelves and cabinets more than once. The sharp pain has taught me to shuffle around the house with more care. Our Bengal cats, George and Gracie, walk through the fireplace and then leave gray paw prints on the white bookshelves. Nancy cleans up behind them, but initially she worried about the damage the cats would do to the assortment of knickknacks on the shelves. Our landlord, a nice lady, assures us that nothing is valuable.

Rhododendrons are in bloom, and some of the bushes in the neighborhood appear to be ten feet high. This is also a friendly environment for roses, especially the wild ragusa that I have always associated with Cape Cod.

Our landlord’s advertisement specified Internet access, but they only have it in their house. The wireless is kaput until her son can come and fix it; perhaps I could troubleshoot the problem—maybe it’s as simple as a loose connection—but I don’t intend to. Nancy and I bring our laptops to the Falmouth Public Library now and then, and we check our emails. Yesterday, we showed up when the library was closed, so we sat in our car and used the library’s wireless signal. It worked fine.

We had lived in Massachusetts for nearly 60 of our years (over 40 of them together), so our trip back here from New Mexico is a good test of how much homesickness we feel. So it may sound odd to say that while I have always liked Massachusetts and been proud to live here, I don’t miss it at all. Today the skies are blue, but for twelve of our first 14 days in this cottage we had heavy, dismal clouds and harsh winds. Our landlord’s elderly husband told the tired joke about New England weather, that if you don’t like it, just wait a minute, it will change. (He told it three times in a half hour the other night, because his memory seems to be slipping.) Anyway, the weather can change quickly around here, but not necessarily for the better.